Ranch? La Croix? Holy water? Hot sauce? Which liquid delivers the best hit?
Product photos by Jamie Lee Curtis Taete. Author photo courtesy of author
Filling one’s bong with a liquid other than water is a far-from-novel idea. The annals of early internet forums are rife with comments by intrepid young stoners positing questions and anecdotes on the pros and cons of using various H2O alternatives in their pipes. And while there’s no concrete evidence to back this up, I can only assume that this experimental practice is as old as the water pipe itself. Take the oldest known specimens, these solid gold proto-bongs enjoyed by Scythian tribal chiefs who ruled Eurasia 2400 years ago. You can’t tell me these fellas didn’t occasionally get wild and throw some yak milk in there.
Today, with cannabis laws continuing to slacken around the world and the stigma and dangers once associated with getting high dissipating, pot smokers will soon have even more leeway to get creative with their fluid selections. And with more liquid options available to them than at any other time in history, there are likely to be more than a few sublime water substitutes out there waiting to be discovered. With that in mind, and using the suggestions of VICE’s sadistic editors, I assumed the role of human guinea pig and prepared to smoke from a bong filled with 11 unorthodox liquids.
The strain I used throughout, the all-around average hybrid, Gorilla Glue, was chosen partially because I knew it wasn’t too potent, but mostly because it’s what was on hand. To further keep some semblance of rigor, I vowed to take only one chamber-clearing bong rip per liquid and regain sobriety before attempting the next on the list. I’d also clean out the bong between tests, of course. I deluded myself into believing that these strictures were going to somehow elevate this from “cautionary tale” to “science.”
As I filled a shopping cart with the sundries needed for the coming week’s trials, the only question on my mind was “how many Pulitzers can one article win?”
I started my journey with a substance that I thought would offer both a palate cleansing baseline and a potential blessing upon the entire endeavor: holy water. Though I never learned the exact origin of the petite, corked bottle of sanctified water that my editor donated for the experiment, he assured me it was indeed blessed by a man or woman of some sort of cloth. Unfortunately, there wasn’t enough water in the tiny vessel to adequately fill the bottom of the bong, so I was forced to top it off with some from the tap, crossing my fingers that this wouldn’t dilute the Lord’s powers in any way.
The hit was clean, albeit a bit mildewy—I think the bottle’s cork had begun to rot—but the ensuing high was disappointing in its secularity. I guess DMT’s still the tried and true drug route to meeting God.
Still getting my sea legs, I chose a mango-flavored La Croix as my next water replacement. Though included on the roster primarily as a craven ploy for the kind of web traction that comes stock with any usage of 2015’s “it” beverage, this one turned out to be an unexpectedly pleasant experience.
The carbonation and hint of mango added some tropical fizz to the hit and the high was what I imagined Instagram celebrities must feel like 24/7.
Now comfortable with the testing process, I took off my training wheels and picked one of the scarier contenders from the list. As someone who actually enjoys hot sauce, I couldn’t bear to part with any of my good shit for this escapade, so I dumped a bunch of Tabasco bottles into the bong instead.
Before I’d even had a chance to spark the bowl, the spicy fumes wafted up and filled my eyes with tears. I flicked the lighter and Inhaled deeply, taking in what felt like off-brand mustard gas before crumpling into a coughing fit. This was not an enjoyable experience.
To give my lungs a bit of a reprieve, I poured minty blue mouthwash into the chamber and lit up.
Akin to a Camel Crush, this combination gave the smoke a menthol taste, with a nice and smooth draw. And for the first time in my life, I coughed zero times after a bong hit.
PUMPKIN SPICE LATTE
As ‘twas the season, I popped into my neighborhood Starbucks and picked up a piping hot PSL for the next round. Because I like neither lattes nor the now-ubiquitous “pumpkin spice” flavor, I had never actually seen the fluid outside of its opaque containers before and was somewhat disturbed at the orange bisque-like substance that poured into my bong.
Surprisingly, none of the cloying gourd flavor made its way into my hit. I only tasted the burnt weed, which was not dissimilar to the burnt coffee bean frequently found in Starbucks orders.
Articles like this are as much about preparation as they are about the writing and, I’ll tell ya, my editor and I agonized over which alcoholic beverage would be the funniest for me to fill a bong with. After popcorning out-of-touch ideas like Fireball and Four Loko around, we finally settled on Casamigos tequila because George Clooney recently sold the company for a billion dollars and he looks kinda douchey in the ads for it. Hilarious, right?
The hit itself was robust, like licking the bar at Mexican restaurant. I kinda liked it. I also liked the hint of smoke that was infused into the gently-used tequila that I recycled from the bong into a cocktail.
COLD-PRESSED KALE JUICE
The next morning, to combat the hangover from my tequila-soaked night, I dumped a healthy cold-pressed juice into the pipe and took a draw while seated on the floor in the lotus position.
The juice bubbled like one of those algae-filled hot springs that look fun but actually give you a UTI. The hit itself was just as unexpectedly gross. The grassy juice flavor latched onto the smoke and gave me the kind of wet, stuck cough that comes with a black mold infestation.
More of a punch line than soda at this point, Mountain Dew seemed an obvious, if not perfunctory sacrifice for the bong. I stuck with OG Dew, rather than veering off into its myriad permutations not just out of respect for the product, but also because the radioactive green sugar water in the clear glass made for some cool mad scientist imagery.
The smoke had a somewhat sweet aftertaste but, overall, this hit was unremarkable. As required by law, I spent the following high playing video games.
I had taken some unpleasant hits up to this point, but this was the liquid I was most afraid could actually do me harm. Though my caffeine tolerance is already way too high, I feared smoking pot through 20 hours’ worth of energy would somehow transmogrify the drug into a meth/bath salts hybrid and either send me on a nude rampage or explode my heart.
Fortunately, none of that happened. I just got high like usual.
What good would this whole ordeal be if I didn’t push my lungs and bong to their very limits in the process? In an affront to God that surely cancelled out the effects of the holy water I’d tested, I uncapped a bottle of Hidden Valley ranch and stuck that bad boy upside-down at the top of the bong's neck, letting gravity slowly pull out its viscous contents. Even as a fan of ranch, the acrid smell was making me queasy. Furthermore, I worried I wouldn’t have the required lung-power to pull smoke through so thick a fluid. After read a few motivational quotes and putting on “Eye of the Tiger” to pump myself up, I sparked the bowl of my experiment’s final boss.
“If you’re going through hell, keep going.” This quote—misattributed to Winston Churchill—ran through my head as I battled with the predictably stubborn dressing, struggling to spark the bowl. Try after try, my flame found no purchase on the green in the bowl. Onward I pressed, my alveoli on fire, until finally, with one big primordial bubble, the smoke broke through to the surface and rushed into my chest with the jolt of a defibrillator resuscitation. As I coughed for the next half hour, I noted that the smoke was surprisingly devoid of any additional ranchy zest.
Days and countless dishwasher cycles later, with my bong finally purged of all ranch remnants, I prepared to fill the chamber one last time to conclude the trials.
In an effort to restore order to the universe, I reached out to famed water sommelier Martin Reise for his recommendation on the purest, most perfect water with which to fill my bong, hoping this recalcitrant overture would absolve my sins and restore order to the universe.
“I do not smoke, but I think a chilled Fiji would be an amazing bong water," suggested Reise. "The cold Fiji will chill down the smoke and the smooth and silky water texture of Fiji will give the cannabis flower a beautiful crisp and clean taste.”
When I expressed my shock that the man behind a $14 bottle of water and an expert on all the most obscure brands had chosen such an accessible bottle, Reise replied “Why should I recommend a water nobody can try out for themselves?”
I ended my journey with what was indeed a crisp and clean hit and the newfound knowledge I could have gleaned by simply talking to a doctor, scientist, or other professional with actual understanding of the subject: your bong’s fluid has no bearing on the actual high.
Follow Justin Caffier on Twitter.